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Responsibility & a Lesson in Reputation Management

 

Intro: this is a guest post from my oh so knowledgeable, helpful and kind SEO buddy Rishi. You will doubtlessly notice and I’m sure appreciate the break from the usual drivel which is spouted on this blog.  

 

 

 

Last Friday a well known and widely read industry blog called techcrunch posted a rumour:
“I heard from an irate friend who works at CBS that last.fm recently provided the RIAA with a giant dump of user data to track down people who are scrobbling unreleased tracks. As word spread numerous employees at last.fm were up in arms because the data collected (a) can be used to identify individuals and (b) will likely be shared with 3rd parties that have relationships with the RIAA.”

( I refuse to link to the article out of sheer principle).

From the comments it is apparent that many readers of the blog deleted their accounts in response. Nor was this the only result of the post, the Last.Fm has definitely taken a hit on its reputation on that timeframe - we don’t know what the numbers of unsubscribers were, but given that the post was made late on Friday, without a real response available from the UK arm of Last.fm, the damage was collating over the weekend.

However, the team at Last.fm UK hit back with “Techcrunch are full of shit” - brave and bold move - where they called out Techcrunch and asked their readers to spread the word. The article has had over 4300 diggs and still climbing, twitter is buzzing with the story, and support messages are coming in fast and furious.

But this was not the only extent of the damage control that the team carried out, the comments on the post highlight another measure:

“As soon as we saw the TC article we suspended the system that cleans out user accounts marked for deletion, expecting that people would do exactly as you did. If you contact our support team (support [at] last.fm) we should be able to restore your account and scrobbles.”

 

I think that there are two valuable lessons to be learnt here:

1. Responsibility.

A blog as influential as techcrunch should really verify their sources and stories - what you say on the internet can sometimes have immediate and enormous impact.

This is pretty much true of the ever increasing News blogs and newspaper sites, as well as top bloggers.  A code of conduct that is applied to offline media should realistically extend to online media - remember, just because it’s a blog, does not mean you aren’t open to being sued, libel is libel, and if proven, damages need to be paid.

My advise to bloggers is don’t run for the cheap win, in the long run, very few can sustain that strategy. Oh, and take out bloggers insurance if you do.

 

2. Reputation Management is Real Time.

Last.Fm’s response and method of response turned a PR incident for them into a PR incident for their attacker. They used the right medium - social media and their blog to get their message across, and quickly.

Even though it was the weekend in the UK, as soon as Last.Fm staff heard the rumour, they instantly began a campaign of rebuttal, commenting on Techcrunch’s original article and on twitter, while at the same time working on their master stroke, which they dropped first thing Monday. This is a great Reputation Management strategy, and I am not the only one who thinks so: A Great Example of Hosting the Conversation When Under Attack

 

And in conclusion, here is an example of how NOT to get involved in Reputation Management: What happened when a blogger decided to take on Ryanair

 

Hungry for more? Read some other excellent articles related to this topic: Ryanair Gets Bad Twitter Press; No More Talk of Conversations; How’s Your Brand Reputation Doing?

 

Rishi Lakhani is a Search Marketing Strategist. Feel free to follow him on twitter.

 

5 Comments on “Responsibility & a Lesson in Reputation Management”

  1. #1 Ciarán
    on Feb 24th, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    Interesting post and one with, I think, some potentially unforeseen consequences. You mention the quote from last.fm about the deletions:

    “As soon as we saw the TC article we suspended the system that cleans out user accounts marked for deletion, expecting that people would do exactly as you did.”

    Really? People asked you to delete their details and you didn’t because you thought that it might be because of something that they had read on a blog? I realise that some people will thank them for this but think it was a pretty risky move and one that I’m still trying to work out the ethics of.

    As for Techcrunch and a code of conduct? Don’t hold your breath - I’m a big fan of the site but it’s far from perfect - just ask Drama 2.0: http://www.drama20show.com/index.php?s=techcrunch

  2. #2 Hannah
    on Feb 24th, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    Hey Ciaran,

    I’m not sure about the netiquette here - obviously Rishi wrote the post, so this is just a comment from me, I wouldn’t wish for it appear as if I’m speaking for him.

    I think you make an excellent point - electing not to delete someone’s account details because you’re assuming that they might not want to actually delete their account once they are appraised of the facts, is not quite ethical.

    However, I think that, if after a suitable amount of time has passed (let’s say a week for arguments sake) and the individual has not asked for their account to be reinstated then as long as the account is then deleted I would be reasonably comfortable.

    I have to confess that I’m not sure if Last.fm have made a statement with regard to this or not.

    I’m sure that Rishi will also comment with his thoughts on this in any case.

    Thanks for posting the link to Drama 2.0 - an interesting read and I concur with much that was said.

    To anyone else commenting here - apologies in any delay in making your comments live. If you haven’t commented here before your comment will automatically go into moderation.

    I will get to it and approve it - provided you’re not just a nasty spammer :)

  3. #3 rishil
    on Feb 25th, 2009 at 9:13 am

    @Ciarán

    I was unsure about this as well - however, I do know many companies do not immediately delete accounts, but hang on to them in “limbo” as sort of a grace period.

    And infact its not a bad strategy, as long as the data is marked for permanent deletion at a later point and that the account is only accessed for either legal reasons, or through the account owners request.

    I mean this is pretty much what happens offline doesnt it? Files of closed accounts arent immediately destroyed - so why should it be any different online?

  4. #4 Ciaran
    on Feb 25th, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Yeah, I agree - I’m not saying that it’s definitely a terrible thing, just that I thought it was quite an interesting statement to make and one that I just felt deserved some further thought.

  5. #5 stuartpturner
    on Apr 14th, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Hey Rishi,

    Very interesting post - it seems reputation management has suddenly moved to the forefront of a number of company’s minds over the Easter weekend.

    It’s definitely not something you can dive into half heartedly and I’m impressed with the responsiveness of Last FM staff; in complete contrast to the AmazonFail issue.

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